St Louis CVC Pay to Play is Shameful

@joaneisenstodt brought a great article to my attention today, it centers on new signs for tourists in St Louis that ignore local attractions that couldn’t pay the fee to be listed. This is my blog and my opinion, so take this as you will because I have problems with this and I am about to call this one as I see it.

On its face, this might seem like an OK idea, but it really is not. Here are some small snips from the article with my thoughts thrown in.

In the coming months, workers will erect hundreds of signs intended to point tourists to the best that St. Louis has to offer. But the $1.7 million effort will overlook many of the area’s most historic, unusual and off-the-beaten-path destinations.

That’s because it’s a pay-to-play campaign, and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission is asking attractions to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be mentioned on the signs, which will be placed on prominent streets. Big commercial attractions — like casinos and sports facilities — can afford the hefty price tag, as can many of the biggest — and richest — cultural institutions.

But dozens of smaller attractions that could benefit from the exposure will be ignored because they were never approached by the CVC or they simply can’t afford to participate.

“You’ve got to spend money to make money, but you have to have money to spend it,” said William Piper, the chairman of the board of trustees for the Eugene Field House Foundation, which runs the historic house of the poet on the south side of downtown. He said the museum would have had to pay more than $25,000 to participate in the CVC’s street signage program.

“We just couldn’t play in that league,” said Piper, a lawyer.

Why not use funds from the Hotel Tax to include the smaller institutions? Why not have different costs of entry based on how much revenue an institution or attraction has? Why not come up with something that would include everyone…….unless the CVC did not want everyone to be listed (you will notice in the article that it says “not everyone was approached”).

Who won’t be listed?

The Campbell and Eugene Field houses aren’t the only historic downtown landmarks that won’t be listed. Nor will Soldiers Memorial, the Scott Joplin House and the city’s oldest building — the Old Cathedral next to the Arch.

Another religious attraction also won’t be on the signs. Monsignor Joseph Pins, rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, said he would have to spend about $25,000 to get signs directing tourists to the New Cathedral and its world-famous collection of religious mosaics. “I just couldn’t in conscience spend that much money, especially in this economy,” he said.

“The program really seemed geared towards the large organizations,” Clifford said. “You’d really need to have revenue of a million dollars or more to justify this.”

Even some of the city’s better known institutions — such as Jefferson Barracks, the St. Louis County Museum of Transportation or Laumeier Sculpture Park — won’t appear on the signs, intended mostly for out-of-towners.

So, now your attendees will be guided directly to the attractions that can pay:

Big commercial attractions — like casinos and sports facilities — can afford the hefty price tag, as can many of the biggest — and richest — cultural institutions.

It seems to me that this load of crap was not thought out very well and is not the success that the St Louis CVC thinks it is (or hopes it will be). This is actually a shameful moment in their history and geared for big business and big money partners.

It is my humble opinion that the St Louis CVC could have worked to find a solution for everyone but decided to jump in bed with the highest bidders rather than put in the effort and mind numbing 30 minutes of thought it would have taken to come up with something better.

Seriously, they spend hundreds of thousands on a study and this is the best they can do……I have two plans that would pay for the whole f’ing thing and it took me 34 seconds….seriously, I timed it on my Timex.

So, now we have a conundrum and the CVC credibility is now called into question.

Can meeting and event professionals now trust anything that the St Louis CVC says or are they steering us toward the properties, venues and attractions that feed the machine with the highest bid. You should see the comment section of the article….

“Well Mr Meeting Planner, it is our opinion that you should choose Hotel A because they are the best”….. but please do not look behind the curtain a the suitcase full of cash moving through.

Whether they like it or not (and obviously not here), a CVC, CVB, XYZ or whatever, is tasked with representing a city or destination.

It is the smaller destinations and attractions that need the signs, not the big ones.

I fully understand that it costs money to do that and some attractions may get a better push than others, but this program is 100% bullshit on its face and I really, really wonder what the other motivation is here because informing tourists how to get the screwing stadium or casino is certainly not necessary…. they already know how to get to the big attractions or perhaps the $150,000 study neglected to tell them that.

In fact, if you wanted to put up nice signs, why do a 6 figure study……….just put them up. A study that told them to do this in 2 phases…. seriously, whose freaking brother in law was the consultant on this one.

In the famous words of a Dude named Ted “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K”……maybe they should do a study to tell them what…..


Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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